National airline Air India is planning to install WiFi-based in-flight entertainment (IFE) across its entire fleet, reducing its dependence on providing IFE through seatback screens.
Last year, the airline chalked up plans to purchase 100 iPads to reduce instances of poor customer experience due to dysfunctional seatback IFE screens. When implemented, the WiFi-based IFE system will allow Air India customers to access entertainment content through their own devices.
In the tender document seeking bids from original equipment manufacturers or proprietary solutions providers to to provide streamable IFE through WiFi, Air India said it would implement the same across all its aircraft types — Boeing 777, Boeing 787, Airbus A319, Airbus A320, Airbus A321.
However, it is unclear whether Air India will get rid of IFE screens already equipped on its wide-bodied Boeing 777s and Boeing 787s.
The national carrier has 127 aircraft in its fleet and after the grounding of Jet Airways has become the only Indian airline to fly on long-haul international routes such as to Europe and the US.
Currently, Air India’s 777s and 787s are equipped with IFE systems by French technology firm Thales. According to an official, when Air India planned purchase of iPads to enhance its in-flight experience, it had also considered replacing the non-functioning IFE screens but it turned out to be an expensive proposition due to which the plan was dropped.
Various airlines in India including budget carriers like SpiceJet currently offer inflight entertainment to their customers through onboard WiFi. The now grounded Jet Airways also offered WiFi-based IFE to its flyers. Further, to enhance its international customer experience, Air India is also looking at repairing and refurbishing the seats of three of its Boeing 777-200LR and 12 Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.
While the Boeing 777-200LR is equipped with eight first class seats, 35 business class and 195 economy class seats, the Boeing 777-300ER is equipped with four first class seats, 35 business class and 306 economy class seats.